The past week I’ve been running around like crazy to help out with a conference. I’ve attended the same conference in previous years (pre-covid) and have had a great time as a guest. This time I volunteered to help out with the organisation, sort of as a thank you to the organizers for the previous iterations but also to learn more about how the conference is run.

Note: It is not possible to run more than Luc, who had infinitely more energy than the rest of us.

As a bonus I got to talk to a lot of the speakers directly and had some great talks with them!

About VueJS Amsterdam

The conference was held over 3 days and was made up of two sections. The first day was a section on its own branded “JSWorld” and the last two days were the “VueJS Amsterdam” conference. The tickets were sold for either section, along with tickets for all three days combined.

The location for the conference (upto now) has been the Amsterdam Theatre, which features a humbling stage. The theatre’s crew was great to work with and very accomondating to our (often) ad-hoc needs.

Day 0: Build up day

The day before the conference started we had to haul everything over to the theatre. It turns out all vendors had already sent most of their material (banners, giveaway swag, amazon packages, etc.) over to our office. I never thought about the logistics before but once you spell it out it is immediately obvious how this would simplify things getting to the conference.

We loaded everything onto a truck and hauled it over to the theatre. There the truck was unloaded.

I had volunteered for the logistics team and so I was tasked (together with a collegue of mine) to get all that we unloaded over to the correct destinations.

Each package was addressed to the conference plus the name of the sender. This is another one of those tricks you never think about, it makes sure you get the right stuff for the conference itself and can also sort it all back out to the sponsors tables once there.

So that is exactly what we did. The building plans had already been printed and had the table locations and sponsor assignments annotated on them. We first sorted all the packages (which at this point were just on a big monolithical pile) according to the sponsor who’d shipped them.

Afterwards we started carrying everything to the right place.

Throughout the day people from the sponsoring companies showed up to set up their booth and unpack their stuff.

The lost shipment

One sponsor in particular was caught off-guard due to a shipment issue; one of their two packages had been stuck in customs for well over a month. Without anyone noticing they we’re very surprised to arrive the day before with one of their packages missing.

Our head organizer recommended them a 24h printing service, which they ended up using to get some cards printed to hand out. Fortunately their shipment with a raffle prize came through but the shirts they were planning to hand out would not arrive.

A lesson here is to make sure well before that the packages have arrived (e.g. cleared customs), and to perhaps also have a backup (like bring small stuff with you by hand).

I checked in with them over the conference days to see if they needed anything else and whether they we’re still doing okay.

Day 1: JSWorld

On the first day I spent most of the morning doing check-ins. Most people checked in before the first presentation started, but people steadily kept arriving until well into the first hour. Throughout the day there would still be the occasional late check-in.

The tickets were sold through eventbrite, but confusingly under two separate events. This meant there were tickets labelled for either the first day or for all three days. And to check someone in you have to scan the QR code on their ticket.

We had a lot of problems with checking people in, as scanning their code could only be done after picking the event in the app. Switching between events took well over 5 seconds, that made it very annoying to do so. I wonder why they didn’t just make a scanner for any code and just let you check them in if it was for an event you had access to.

Besides the switching there were also tickets which did not belong to either of the two events. There may have been a third event those tickets belonged to, we’ll never know. Luckely we had a spreadsheet with the ticket information on stand-by so I ended up checking most people in by confirming their ticket on the spreadsheet instead.

In the end we managed to check-in well over 1000 people! The whole process, besides the terrible UX on our side, went smoothly and also gave me some interresting insight into motivation.

It was very rewarding to help so many people in quick succession get into the event. This made me think that the distance between software developers and the end-users of the software they build may also be a big contributor to how we feel unsatisfied from time to time in our jobs.

It was great to see some ex-collegues from my previous job, they knew I’d be there and came to me for their check-ins.

The rest of the first day I spent behind the Passionate People booth, explaining what we do and answering questions. During presentations I relaxed and roamed around the cafeteria area, checking out some of the sponsor setups.

I also attended one of the talks, which was interesting. But I’m resorting to watching back the recordings for the other talks as I enjoyed roaming around and talking to people more than sitting in on the presentations.

Day 2: VueJS Amsterdam

I had to skip this day because I burned up after the first day. With the travel time as well as a sore throat I had a terrible sleep and had to recover for the day. Next year I’ll make sure to pace myself better to not burn up and I’ll considder getting a hotel nearby to skip on the travel time.

Day 3: VueJS Amsterdam

The last day of the event there were no more check-ins to do, and I also wanted to do more than be at the booth all day. So I joined Luc in doing “speaker care”, mainly getting speakers to the backstage area on time and getting them to their post-presentation interview.

This was a lot of fun as I’d got to talk to the speakers individually and had some great discussions about their topics.

Towards the end of the day everyone was getting a little fatigued (it had been 3 days after all) and the schedule started to slip. It turns out that some speakers don’t look at their timer at all and can easily run over time by a mile.

The high-context talk

There was one speaker which stood out specifically because of their presentation. They gave a talk which I found painstakingly slow as well as difficult to follow. It felt like they were going on-and-on without a clear purpose and it took a lot of focus to try and follow what they were speaking about. Now I had been using up a lot of energy throughout the day already, but with the other talks this problem did not present itself to me.

As I was having a conversation with the MC (Tim Benniks), he mentioned how this speaker came from a high-context culture. Once he said that it clicked immediately: because in that culture conversations carry story it took me a lot of energy to carry all that state across the sentences and paragraphs he was saying.

In contrast, dutch culture (and similarly those of the other speakers) is low-context and each sentence carries most of the information needed to understand the intent. With a low-context conversation you can drop out your focus, pop back in and still pick-up the conversation relatively easily.

But here, with this speaker using high-context conversation, it was very hard to pick up the talk if you lost focus because so much of their speach depended or referred to previous sentences. I should do a small essay on this separately (soon™).


I learned a lot about running a conference and I know that I’ve not nearly scatched the surface of what it took to put it together in the first place. Still it was an amazing oppertunity from Passionate People to help out with the event. Besides talking to the speakers about their topics I’ve also been asking some of them how they started with presenting as it seems something I’d like to at least try once.

✌️ Bram